Exit 56. Unhappy Memorial Day.

Today is Memorial Day here in the USA.  Memorial Day began a few years after our Civil War ended, with a tradition of placing flowers on graves of those who died in the Civil War, every May 30.  Today, the holiday has been shifted to the last Monday in May, and the meaning has been expanded as a day to remember all of those who have died in combat.  But a lot of people seem to have forgotten the meaning, sometimes going so far as to refer to today as Veterans Day or, even worse, Labor Day.

On Facebook this weekend, I’ve seen the usual assortment of posts from people reminding each other what today is about.  At least some people care.  I read one interesting article, however, from someone who didn’t want to be thanked for his service to his country, and who didn’t want to be wished a “Happy Memorial Day.”  I agree with the second part.  Memorial Day is not set aside for a happy reason.  There is nothing happy about people dying in service to their country.  Freedom is not free, and this is the most tangible expression of that truth.  No one is going to go around wishing each other Unhappy Memorial Day, or Sad Memorial Day, but still, something just doesn’t sound right about Happy Memorial Day.

It was the other part that struck me, though.  I understand his position.  The purpose of Memorial Day is not to thank veterans for their service.  That is Veterans Day, November 11.  (I’m aware that other countries have different names and traditions for November 11 — or should I say 11 November; I’m talking about holidays in the USA today.)  But why should that mean I can’t thank veterans for their service?  Is it only acceptable to thank veterans for their service on November 11?  Can’t I be thankful for the freedoms that they fought for every day?  If I have ever offended any veterans by thanking them for their service on Memorial Day, I certainly didn’t mean for my statement to diminish the importance of Memorial Day; I just want them to know that I am thankful for their service to our country.

For that matter, is it really that wrong to have a barbecue and go swimming on Memorial Day?  No.  Not at all.  But the important thing is not to forget why we have a day off school and work today.  Freedom is not free.  Thank you to all who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defense of my right of free speech that makes this blog possible, as well as all the other rights we enjoy.

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